Does Your Spending Match Your Values?

This post is an expanded version of a post from several years ago because it perfectly fits in with our Back to Basics Week Two topic:  Dreaming!

Several years ago, I read a book that had a profound impact on me.  I can’t remember the author or title (though I’m pretty sure the author was David Bach), but one concept has really stuck with me.  The author suggested that you make a list of four to six things that are important to you.  These are supposed to be ideas and values, not specific goals.  I will admit that I have twisted the authors ideas a bit, putting slightly more specific things such as sports in addition to much more vague things such as fun.  I don’t do well with vague.  Place your list in a circle or randomly around the page, not up and down in a line, to show that none of these choices are more or less important than the others.  What sort of things might you include?

  • Adventure
  • Animals
  • Art (actual physical art, or something else)
  • Balance
  • Beauty (art, or a beautiful house, or garden, or whatever)
  • Children
  • Cleanliness
  • Community
  • Confidence
  • Education
  • Environmental issues
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Freedom
  • Fun
  • Growth
  • Happiness
  • Health
  • Helping Others
  • Independence
  • Leadership
  • Love
  • Making a difference
  • Marriage
  • Music
  • Peace of mind
  • Power
  • Religion
  • Security
  • Spirituality
  • Sports
  • Travel

None of these are meant to be comprehensive — if playing the accordion is very important to you, add it to your list!

The idea is to organize your spending around the the things you value.  This works both ways – why would you spend a lot of money on something that you don’t value, but also why would you not spend money on things that you value a lot?  When I did this exercise, one of the first things I noticed was that I don’t list eating out or buying beer and wine as a core value, but both of those things take up a decent chunk of my spending.  I don’t spend much at all on my health, despite listing it in my top values.

I challenge you to try this exercise.  Make a list of the things that are most important to you, then think for a bit about how your spending reflects these values.  Let me know if you find this useful!

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Kim

    Interesting exercise. It really does give me a different way to look at how I spend my money . Thanks. Now, if I can get my husband to think about this, too….